Posts: 7,282 - May 2011
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Scribe's Contest VIII - Voting!
Welcome to the voting thread for the 8th Scribe's Contest writing competition!
"And you will miss this vale of woe that is mortal life, and you will long for it in the torment to come..."
How to vote:
Please submit 3 numbers as votes by sending a PM to Scribe
account (a special account all Staff members can access). We had 11 entries this time, which means each entrant will receive 11 slaves once the winners have been announced. There will be Gold, Silver, and Bronze Scribe's Contest medals to be awarded!
You are not allowed to vote for your own entry.
Each (more or less) anonymous entry is numbered ranging from 1 to 11. There is no need to specify which one you think is 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Simply list the three that you like we will do the rest.
Voting will close at 11:59 PM July 17th, 2016 EST (Eastern Standard Timezone).
Once the votes are tallied we will post the results.
Subject Matter: Beyond the Grave - Chaos Dwarfs and Afterlife
A Lost Rune
Dark whispers and even darker promises. Our kind has fallen prey to these time and time again. I know the truth of these whispers and promises; I have seen what awaits all of us.
It was only meant to be a simple ritual. My master Drekkfra had only recently perished in battle against a migrating tribe of Ogres. As his adept, I was meant to take his place as Sorcerer. Yet the old coot had fed me precious little knowledge and his tomes were locked by a rune I could not fathom. In my lust for knowledge and trusting not to consorting with daemons yet, I decided to cast my spirit into the fabled Halls of the Dead. If I could find my master then maybe I could learn how to unlock his rune, even if I had to torture his spirit to do so.
Ten slaves and a young bull carved with runes of death and afterlife were sacrificed within my master’s altar room, the dying bull’s blood pooling into a goblet that I drank whilst invoking the words engraved on the gates of Hashut’s Halls. What happened next, I do not know, but I must have passed out for I awoke in darkness.
I rose to my feet and looked around warily as my eyes began to adjust. I was within a stone chamber marked with the runes and dark signs of Hashut. I muttered an incantation and a small sphere of light grew from my hand to float beside me. I knew I did not have long before my spirit would be drawn back to life.
There was a large stone passageway that opened up and I passed through it. Of the souls of my fellow Dawi Zharr, I at first saw nothing. I have heard tales of pits of fire and flame where the weak of my kind are eternally tormented, and I have heard other tales of great halls with warm hearths where our greatest eternally feast and toast our lord Hashut. None of those tales hold truth. The oppressive stone around me was dark and cold. There was little sound, as if these halls were truly empty.
I then heard a pained gibber. I turned quickly at the sound, words of destruction forming within my mind. A face had appeared on the stone wall. It was the face of one of my fellow Dawi Zharr. It gibbered, eyes slackly turning. It did not seem to notice me, too lost in agony and madness. I took several wary steps away and continued down the tunnel, noticing more and more faces appear and disappear upon the walls. Males, females, and children. Some were nobleborn, some Sorcerers, some guards, and some mere underlings. They gibbered, gnashed, and groaned as they painfully crawled across the walls. I tried to entreat some of them whom seemed familiar to me, but none answered.
The tunnel grew colder, ice crystals seemed to form upon the walls. Still the faces swam.
Finally, a stone portal loomed ahead and I quickly passed through without looking back. An ancient and haggard Chaos Dwarf leant against the back wall, muttering and shaking. It was my master. Not five days had passed since his death, yet he had aged so much. I strode to him with purpose, though my heart was already chilled with what I had seen. He looked up with confused and distant eyes.
”Lost...lost...lost...” he murmured in a faded voice.
“Master. Drekkfra. It is I, your pupil” I replied. He looked at me strangely with unfocussed eyes.
“Lost...lost...lost...Hashut...It’s so cold...” he gibbered.
“What is the rune you used to hide your secrets? Tell me!”
“Cold...cold...cold...” he whimpered.
Snarling, I seized him. Yet I was unable to move him. He was becoming one with the cold stone. He dragged a finger nail across a slab of stone beside him, almost absentmindedly. I looked on, brow furrowed. It was the rune that I didn’t recognize. I reached out to touch it but on contact it burnt worse than any flame that has licked my flesh. I reeled back in pain and turned angry eyes to my master.
“Lost...lost...lost...” he murmured again, unaware of me. I turned to leave and as I did so my master and the cold stone walls seemed to fade into the darkness. I heard a laugh. The laughter of Hashut.
We are fools. In our greed we have surrendered our souls. We are the building blocks for Hashut’s Hall. There is no reward for our service, only the cold stone. It is our fate and something we shall all face.
Even now, I look to my hand and the rune burned into it. I realize now what it is, forlorn, misplaced, or impossible that it may be.
I know that one day I will die
But in the time I have to exist
Cloistered in stone
A thousand memories remain
I will feel eternity
My body and soul never will be together
Death is not death
Only a trip to the afterlife
The shadow of time never will meet one more year
I want to feel the energy that is within me
And with all who are here share
The greatness of the power
That Azakil once wielded
I will feel eternity
My body and soul never will be together
Death is not death
Only a trip to the afterlife
The shadow of time never will meet one more year
But now, I depart
My muscles solidify
My magic has betrayed me
And I must say goodbye.
D’Varr struggled to open his eyes. It was the most difficult thing he remembered doing in weeks. His eyelids shifted, grinding against stone he could feel but not hear. His ears stopped functioning long ago.
He didn’t know how much time had passed since the Hobgoblins had moved him to the temple workshop, face down on a cart like some sort of soulless hunk of rock. He wasn’t, though. He was a prisoner inside his own body, fully aware but unable to move, to speak, to breathe. At least they had the courtesy to face him outward.
He had spent his entire life studying and knew his choices would eventually lead him to this pain and to an eternity next to the Father of Darkness, warming his hands at the world furnace. The body completely turned to stone as your soul leaved this forge of blood. It’s what the priests said, and he believed every word. That did not make the transition any easier. The stone slowly creeping through his body caused pain beyond reckoning. However, it was worthy pain knowing the power he wielded in life.
He had accomplished more than any Sorcerer known to Dwarfdom. Those upstarts, Astragoth and Ghorth, had fame, but down in the bowels of Zharr-Naggrund, all knew who held real power. Power was more important than fame. His proof of that power was how quickly he had been turned to stone. He was half Astragoth’s age, yet he had been unable to move his legs for years. Those ridiculous pistons that Sorcerer used would do nothing for D’Varr now. He had been stone from the neck down for what seemed like an eternity. In his final battle, he’d been carried out on a palanquin, slaves struggling under his weight as he cast spells using only his voice. That was power.
He prayed to Hashut. He could no longer bow his head, and now he had lost control of his eyelids. Still, having sight was a small comfort. He hadn’t been able to speak to his loved ones when they came to say goodbye. His wife cried, weeping into their son Harchett’s arms. He could only watch them from a stone prison of his own making. He looked longingly at his family, his love burning through his petrified heart. He impotently watched his wife in her grief, quietly sniffing and wiping away tears.
D’Varr seemed to see Harchett for the first time in years. His family came second in his struggle for power, but he always loved them more than he let them know. The power was always his first love, and he had been wrong. His son was now an old man himself, wrinkles lining his face. Harchett was a slave master by trade and would never know the pain of being a Sorcerer. For that, D’Varr thanked the Dark Father repeatedly. The Chaos Dwarfs of Zharr-Naggrund could be the cruelest of creatures to all others, but in their homes, they protected and loved their own.
His wife and son reached out and brushed away the stone dust that had settled on him. He watched them say things he couldn’t hear. He begged to Hashut to hear their voices one last time before he joined His side; his prayers were met with silence. The two Chaos Dwarfs he loved more than life, and in retrospect, more than the power he spent his life obtaining, turned and walked away, having said their goodbyes. He wanted nothing more than to tell them how he would have changed everything, how he would have chosen the life of a slave master if it meant being with them for one minute more. They were gone. Alone, he was buried in stone and regret.
D’Varr didn’t know how long he’d been there; minutes, hours, or days. He only knew that something was suddenly very different. He could feel Hashut’s presence stronger than he had ever felt before. The air shimmered mirage-like in front of him, Hashut Himself tearing through the fabric of reality, not in the form of the Great Taurus, but in Daemon form, writhing in the flames of Chaos. Hashut reached for His minion, pulling him through the rift. D’Varr was carried through the inferno and placed among a host of other statues, all Sorcerers like himself, all with their heads bowed and eyes closed. He suddenly felt the searing heat of the fires which engulfed him, agony seething through nerves of stone. He begged for mercy and knew there would be none. He could hear the deep guttural laughter of Hashut as He walked away from His petrified servants. D'Varr now knew why all the other Sorcerer's statues had their heads bowed; their eyes closed. He tried to scream, but could only stare helplessly into the fires for eternity.
Zharek Kadesshak was an enigma, and this is but a small measure of the tally of deeds that followed the third century of his existence:
- Unyielding and eternally cruel, no other emotion ever crossed his glaring visage; and always at his core lay the frigid stone heart of a true Dawi Zharr.
- Though family beseeched him, and the masters of the city kneeled before him begging his learned and sage advice, ever he kept counsel to himself. For all, be they enemy or friend, would fail and be ground underfoot in the furnace of callous ambition.
- He looked down on the Plain of Hezegarr from the heights of Mt. Golanta and surveyed the outmatched armies of Zharr Khazak-Unn. They stood, arrayed in a black haze of armor and smoking engine, against Gorsha the Warlord and the teeming mass of Orcs and Goblins that flocked to his banner. In timely brilliance he saw the battle unfold in his mind's eye, and knew instantly the scheme that would obliterate Gorsha's horde. Yet he told no one. The army was utterly defeated. Zharr Khazak-Unn was erased; leveled to the ground in three days of frenzied slaughter. Not one inhabitant escaped.
- Such was his rigid mettle, that no sound escaped his lips when the mad Sorcerer Kreklashik severed his left hand in anger, spite, and lust for power. But his ire was kindled. Oh, how his ire was kindled! His heavy hand round Kreklashik's neck was evident in the Sorcerer’s tumultuous fall from Gorgoth's heights.
- Though it could not be enough to save the city from ruin, he stood alone, unflinching, and faced the Gelshazatar the Destroyer as the woesome dragon rose from the lava trenches; molten magma running rivulets of gleaming stone and fire down his scaled hide. Gelshazatar shattered the fortress walls of Khardak Zhag in a single night. Only Zharek remained standing.
- For years he watched the Seed of Hashut in its slow, inexorable path across the sky. From the start, he knew with perfect calculation the conclusion of the comet's circuit. Ne'er did word of warning cross his lips, and he looked on from the heights of Zharr Shakoth in gleeful anticipation at the panicked populace; secure in the surety of his own destruction at the fateful omen's approach. Though Zharr Shakoth was laid to waste, Still Zharek stood fast, untouched.
This is but a brief chronicle of deeds; chiseled deep and permanent into the stone tablet of my mind. I, the Sorceror Zharek Kadesshak who in my 296th year turned to obdurate stone as payment for the expanding breadth, and consummate power of my magic. Petrified. Immobile. Terminal. The icy finality of death in life, and termless life in death. And though you cannot see me move or hear me speak; I see... and I hear... everything. Where ere they have carried and mounted my stone visage on pedestals and plinths, I have watched with staring eyes. I have seen heights of glory and the most base obliteration, plotted demise and destruction, strategized infallible conquest, and ranted and raved in a cacophony of abhorrent silence, till even madness gave way to the plodding inevitability of aeons. And always I speak nothing. The genius of my fossilized mind has increased until I but look to see in wonder the veiled uniformity of chaos itself; unraveled before me in intricate complexity.
I stand and I see. Though Kreklashik took my granite hand to tap my stolen power, and wore it briefly round his neck on iron chains; I saw the frayed thread that told his end, even before his killers knew to curse his name, and plot his untimely defenestration.
And now I stand on the gilded causeway to Zharr-Naggrund ever watching the endless procession that passes through and from those massive gates: Master and slave, Sorcerer and fool, wench and shrew, guard and menial, pauper and king, slave and master. Each going about their self-ful ways... oblivious... because they do not know. But I know. I. KNOW... as must all my silent brethren, with undiluted certainty, how and when Zharr-Naggrund will fall, crushed and broken, ground into the dust, and sunken into the molten depths, ruined beyond revival. Though years beyond... it approaches... grinding slowly closer as we stand our voiceless watch.
And still I say nothing, and no-one reaps the scourge or benefit of my acuity. Nor will they ever. Perhaps, finally, I will fall with it... or yet still... I will stand.
Castellan Kravdurn looked at the unfamiliar scene. He prepared for whatever would surely come out of this mist. Around him stood his unit, stark Dawi Zharr all. They had the same intent stare out from their helmets as his. He remembered the battle but its details eluded him. Events seemed jumbled, and the wounds he knew he’d taken, he could feel nought of them now.
A glow grew stronger within the shrouding gloom, hinting at flames and shadows. The tension in his troops heightened as the thick atmosphere began blowing away, clearing whatever had clouded his mind on its way.
He knew now, the battle was over and they were surely dead. Those around him, his warriors, he’d seen most of them fall beneath blades and claws. They’d died obeying his last commands. His decision to defend the battle standard to the last as his commander fled. Fighting, retreating and delaying the rampant chaos baying before them. Only one possible end for this freely made choice.
What stood before them now was not the battle. It was a boundless plain, not of grass or fields. Writhing souls as far as vision allowed, lay entangled, entwined, in pain, on a living bed of fire. Figures ranged across the plain, familiar four legged, two armed and horned. Burning shades but not in pain. Where they moved, the “soul-grass” was laid flat, frozen in a rictus of agony. Distantly one figure outshone and outsized all the others, silhouetted against a towering ziggurat.
They watched the tabloid before them silently, until with a sound of rolling thunder; He was there before them, looming and majestic beyond belief. His God, not the shadow in the fire-lit gloom as seen in the temple but the God of Darkness. Stretching behind Him a trail of mighty hoof prints embedded into the morass of damned souls, the edges blackened and the dents blazing hotter than anywhere around them.
As one, all there knelt and prostrated themselves, feeling the lash of His gaze as it swept across them. A thudding presence in their minds, reminiscent of hooves, dragged them back onto their feet and all knew that their time of judgement had come. Arrayed now around Hashut’s hooves were many of the fiery Bull Centaurs and with a chorused bellow they called to their own. The slain Temple Guardians from his army flowed down to join their fellows, all of them transforming into the fiery beings from the previous flesh they’d worn.
Hashut raised his mighty axe and pointed it at the Lord and Commander of this once earthly army. The soul-body of the Prophet floated towards Hashut until it touched the tip of the axe blade and paused there. The God’s gaze seemed to pierce the Lord Sorcerer and a sneer creased the divine visage. The sublime look of arrogance that had always been on the Prophet’s face disappeared instantly. He began toburn and to writhe as he started screaming. Kravdurn remembered having seen him flee and knew Hashut’s justice now. The axe flicked and the tortured soul fell. One of Hashut’s hooves then slowly descended and ground it deeply into the carpet of souls.
The axe rose again and swept in a lazy arc across the breadth of the souls before Him. All along that arc, souls were drawn out onto the blade's edge to suffer and burn. Another flick and the cloud of damned were flung out to join those already judged and found wanting. The searing gaze swept across them again and another cloud of souls was drawn up towards Hashut. This time they landed on the palm of His hand. No screams came from them, no flames consumed them. A fiery glow surrounded them, lifted them, and Kravdurn could see the exultation on their faces as his comrades were sent towards the distant ziggurat behind Hashut.
Kravdurn dared to look around and found he stood with only two others. His sergeant and another he distantly knew as an extremely ferocious warrior. They were all that were left awaiting judgement. Hashut turned His face back to them and the rumbling avalanche of His mind reverberated through them.
“You shall be my chosen”
Darkness fell and folded itself around Kravdurn and time slowed beyond his knowing.
Pain came, then light and then excruciating noise. He fought and vision came to him. He was able to look around, everything seemed huge, and he was being held by something or someone. His body felt strange and he looked down at it, two hands, a chest, four hoofed legs and a short barrelled body. Kravdurn knew then, he was of the truly chosen now. He rejoiced with a bellow.
“The bull child is alive and well,” stated the midwife.
“Excellent,” replied the temple priest.
[This is an account of the High Priest Rhaskhull Stonefoot, as written by his disciple Ghrashnik the Lowly:]
After 44 days of bloodfast, I prayed to Hashut for guidance. He showed me a great vision of what awaits the dead - both those who keep strong in the faith and those who do not.
The souls enter this domain falling from a great height, dropping down to a great circular plain with a square-sided volcano at the center. The plain is surrounded by an ocean of lava that stretches as far as the eye can see. Each soul is held up by strings tied to balloons of hot air, each one representing a deed or sacrifice performed in our Dark Lord's name. A gentle wind blows the souls towards the volcano in the middle. Those buoyed up by many strings drift and descend to the edge of the great volcano, the quickest and easiest route. Those with only few balloons crash into a heap on the rocky ground and have to limp or crawl the many miles to the volcano by land. The sand is dry and sharp, it painfully scratches the skin with the merest touch. Those with no balloons drop straight into the lava ocean at the edge of the plain, feeding His energy with what remains of their lifeforce. These are just punishments for those who do not use their life to further His causes, but they may still yet serve Him in death after this atonement.
At the volcano, you feel the pleasant heat of His energy, and each of your balloons releases a being of energy who acts as your servant - fetching you food or other supplies as you wish. You need not eat or drink here, but any delicious food or liquid refreshment is available for your pleasure. At the base of the volcano there are many establishments where you may sit and commune with fellow souls, not unlike alehouses. Higher up the side of the great square volcano there are smithies for those who enjoy making weapons and armour, each with a forge heated by lava. At the peak are the workshops of the highest quality, where the best Sorcerers and engineers devise contraptions of a fantastical nature. In the afterlife, stone skin is a blessing - no longer are the Sorcerers slowed down or restricted, but instead they are ten times stronger and resistant to harm, while as flexible as a mere whelp. Their accomplishments in life are far exceeded in death, with the strength to lift huge brass gears into place without a winch and connect pipes full of boiling oil without even thin gloves, while commanding thousands of obedient and capable servants to construct yet more devices from their plans.
From this I came to gaze upon their greatest achievement, said to be finally completed only when the whole of the world is under His command: a giant mechanical form of Hashut where each leg...
[The remainder of the document is missing.]
The High Priest of Hashut leaned down to the eager young Chaos Dwarf in a puff of smoke. His legs, long seized, groaned to the sound of iron on stone, and in a husky, cruel snarl the priest uttered:
“Young Dawi Zharr, so eager for the battle. To give your life to Hashut, to the Father of Darkness.”
The young tusk quickly grunted:
“For Hashut, the Father of the Darkness, the Father of the Dawi Zharr, I would willingly sacrifice my life.”
Stunned at the wit of the minor, Astragoth growled out a hiss and bit back at the child:
“I will tell you what awaits a Dawi Zharr warrior when he sacrifices his life to Hashut.”
The eyes of the old High Priest narrowed and his hardened face wrinkled back into a gnarled smile of tusk and beard.
“Your Weapon will be cast to the Battle, from the Father to the Son. Back to the Dawi Zharr.
Your Body will be cast to the Fire, from the Dust to the Ash. Back to Chaos.
Your Mind will be cast to the Stone. From the Warp to the Earth, Back to the Darkness, Back to Hashut.”
Leaning back away from the boy, he relaxed to the sound of obsidian scraping over iron as smoke billowed to the floor.
“Become the power that enslaves everything.”
The sun peered through the smoke and dawned across the cracked sands of the Dark Lands, the air as still as a Gnoblar caught in its master’s stare. The boy somberly exclaims:
“Glory to Hashut, Father of the Darkness! From the Ziggurat to the grave, I give my life to Hashut!”
"Gather around me, brethren, and heed my words, for they are all born out of wisdom blessed and cursed by Dark Gods and Daemons alike in nightmares and fire and orgiatic visions. Heed these words, for they were grasped at the price of insanity and damnation eternal by mystics and seers and priests, while foul spirits and unholy confusion tried to snatch these secrets away at every turn as the ancients struggled to haul home their forbidden plunder of lore. Heed the words, for herein lies the mysteries of death, afterlife and fate itself. Spoken above fire under heaven, as witnessed by the searing eyes of deities and mighty idols alike, I hereby confess to know that which is beyond sight of lowly mortals.
Witness Hashut rise!
In the beginning there was fire and darkness, and fire and darkness there will be in the end. What passes between them is the living's struggle for domination over one another, where the cruel, the strong, the cunning and the best win through. Dark glory shall be theirs in life and legacy, and mastery they shall hold over others, yet in the end death will claim all the living, be they lord or slave.
Darkness be. The filthy souls of unbelievers and slaves will all be cast into the towering furnace beyond light, to fuel the flames of the Father of Darkness, and so too shall be the destiny of those damned to exile and shameful servitude in the dread Infernal Guard. Spit upon their fates!
Shadows be. Every righteous sacrificer of the chosen tribe of the fiery Bull God must utter in full the Last Praise to Him on high when they lie dying, lest the gate to the Realm will be closed, and they will be cursed to wander the world as ghosts, as do so many revenants of infants and mutes and weaklings who died quick deaths.
Fire be. Baleful be the woe after death of whoever has their corpse cast into impure water, for eternal drowning of the soul in the Unknown Abyss will be theirs forever.
Smoke be. The correct rituals of death must be observed. Let the omens decree if burning or burial must take place. Sacrifice to Him, and send the deceased into the afterlife with grave goods and mourning rites aplenty. The niggardly endowed will find his bribes and arcane passwords and otherworldly weapons and armour insufficient to pass through the long line of travails and hardships and perils awaiting the wandering soul on its winding path to the one true Father, for Daemons will surely ensnare or lure or overpower the one buried for a miser, and his soul shall be carried away into oblivion and torment.
Cinders be. The souls of sacrificers not lost on the long way to afterlife will face the sixty mighty Gates of the Father, and at each gate they must answer the twelve times twelve Questions of Devotion, or be torn apart beneath the cloven hooves of its guardians. Those who answer in truth will pass.
Pain be. Those who enter the Gates of the Father will be judged by high Hashut and His court of shackled Daemons within His divine and unholy abode of shadow and flame. There no falsehoods will long withstand the burning gaze of the Father of Darkness, and uncloaked truth shall be had by torture and torment until all the soul is laid bare like a flayed animal, and only then shall judgement be passed.
Hell be. The heretic and wrongdoer and failed usurper who breaks His sacred commandments shall be plunged into the hungering flames, to be roasted for all eternity and to be trampled and split in two and shredded by His hallowed K'daai tormentors, and the screams of the unworthy will echo across creation.
Ashes be. The righteous sacrificers and fertile mothers and stalwart warriors and diligent craftsmen judged worthy shall be spared the flames of eternal torment, and their shackled souls shall instead be cast into cage and gloom, to eat dust in dreary limbo, forever longing for the bliss of their betters.
Slag be. The unfailingly devout sacrificers and greatly fertile mothers and surpassingly skilled craftsmen shall know eternal labour and dark glory, and the supreme warriors shall stand guard over the roaring forges of the Artisan of Chaos, and their works shall be eternal.
Metal be. The blessed spawns of the Bull God and those gifted with stoneform and prophecy and those truly superior amongst the Blacksmiths of Chaos shall know might and pleasure. Vast shall be their harems, grand their armouries, glittering their treasures. They shall attend the dark and fiery court of the Father of Dakness, and forever more adulate Him who is Hashut.
- The Way Past Death sermon of the Slaghoof sect
To Carve One's Fate
In the roiling hell of the Realm of Chaos amongst a miniature tempest of pain and madness a single cohesive thought consolidated: “I.” It was a simple but powerful revelation amongst the writhing miasma of insanity which changed the whole form of what before was but a trivial swirl in the tides of Chaos: “I am Dawi Zharr! I am Sorcerer-Priest!“ The will of the Blacksmiths of Chaos is mighty and the will of their sorcerous overlords many more times so. Thusly the devastated spirit, becoming somewhat whole, looked out again from its own eyes, barely able to focus through the heinous pain which wracked his body. He beheld the great sacrificial chamber, the altar of his mighty god, and the brazen podium from which he had stood many times and conducted unnumbered unholy rites on behalf of his Sorcerer-Prophet whom... whom he hates! Whom he must destroy! To stone with him! To stone with Bharvrhak! Stone!
He stood mightily upon the podium, brandishing blooded rod and smoldering staff, conducting the ritual and calling the favors of Hashut. Too many times he had called the dark powers standing in for the aged Sorcerer-Prophet. Streaks of stone had finally begun to pain his footsteps and the Sorcerer-Prophet's secret was now known to him, Bharvrhak’s time now waned.
The vision melted from his mind as he tried to control the pain which wracked his body, he tried to pull himself back to that moment but failed. Of all things Bharvrhak’s greatest transgression was his heretical vanity. Where idols of glorious Hashut should blaze upon the adjoining wall of the Prophet's throne instead glowered five huge ugly busts of Bharvrhak’s face, his head repeated again and again as big as a Giant’s across the vast stone wall. The five great stone faces offended him even more then the Prophet's own mediocrity as a Sorcerer. It was only by the secret of his dreaded Mage-Bane Petrification curse that Bharvrhak rose to glory; an insidious version of the Curse of Hashut which targeted enemy wizards and was devilishly difficult to counter or resist. However, he had deftly plundered the Sorcerer-Prophet's secret...
He crept carefully through the hidden labyrinth, timing his incantations and the sliding of secret doors with the noisy work of the Daemon-Forge above him. He toiled in constant dread knowing were he discovered with a stolen tablet of Bharvrhak’s own arcana he would soon meet a cruel death. The thrice-warded tablet was laughably easy to clear of obscuring enchantments, another testament to the Sorcerer-Prophet's unworthiness of his title. Concealed amongst the sliding secrets of the maze were the petrified bodies of failed acolytes, secret and cunning runes were carved into their stone-flesh and with his pilfered lore he deciphered them whilst avoiding the nameless and faceless Seven Times Mutated Thing which haunted the maze.
Once again pain overwhelmed his memories and returned him to the unbearable now. Great rents and masses of flesh where gone from his body. In the soaring pain he knew most of his torso and some portion of his heart had been sheared from him, much of his face was sliced from his skull, terrible furrows of pain covered his legs and arms. He had been kept immobile and upright, unable to see what tortures had befallen his body. He gazed across the familiar chamber unable to fathom his vantage point, grateful he could not see the Prophet's pompous throne, for the last time he had looked upon it… the last time…
Coming to the crescendo of the sacred and unholy rite he stood now surging with the powers of fiery darkness. Hours had passed and countless slaves had been sacrificed as the Sorcerer-Prophet gazed on from his throne. He soon came to the pinnacle of the spell, burning with the raw stuff of Chaos as he conducted the ritual that the aged Prophet no longer could. Where he was meant to bestow upon his master blessings and vitality he denounced him! He cast upon the vain fool his own secret and signature petrifying incantation! He cast... He cast...
The reflection in the vast basin of sacrificial blood recently filled by the ritualists snapped him harshly into the present and into maddening epiphany. As his mind and soul howled and shattered unable to bear the black revelation he knew that the spell he thought he had so cunningly discovered was but a trap of that dark labyrinth. He knew the nature of the horrible pain which assailed his body. He knew his suffering was to be eternal. He knew why he could see in the crimson reflection not five great stone faces of his hated enemy – but six!
"...And as I descended through the Gates of Death before me lay a vast wasteland, a blasted desert haunted by the souls of the damned where the spirits of traitors and oathbreakers are staked out to be preyed upon by Hashut's forsaken spawn each night. For twelve days and twelve nights I traveled through that forsaken land before arriving at the crest of the Pit, the dark abyss where all must go.
Looking down I saw that Twelve levels there are to the Pit, one each for every level of society. The first and highest is the most populous and is where the souls of slaves go, shackled in death as they were in life, lorded over by shadowy bull-headed Daemons who whip them ceaselessly. Below that is the second level, reserved for the honoured slaves, those whose chains, both mortal and eternal, are invisible to their eyes. Next lies the third level, for the common Dawi Zharr, who are most numerous, dwelling in simple homes of stone and below that is the fourth for the Mothers, the matrons of the families honoured in death for bearing the Children of Hashut and the fifth for the Fathers, masters of the hearth and sires of all. Grander are the homes in these levels, the whims of those that dwell there catered for by Daemon thralls bound to their wills.
Below that the shadows were too dark to discern their inhabitants and so I descended into the Pit. Down I went, through the sixth where the Overlords dwell in their obsidian palaces, past the seventh where the Bull Centaurs revel in their debauchery and the eighth where the priests chant in their temples. Deeper still I went, beyond the ninth where the heroes reside, training without pause for the glories they shall reap in the End Times and beyond the tenth where the Prophets speak the word of Hashut from golden thrones atop black marble ziggurats, and so I arrived at the eleventh, the Court of the High-Priests. No further could I go, for no mortal may set foot in the twelfth, the deepest where sits Hashut Himself on His throne, brooding and biding His time..."
- Excerpt from
The Azgorragead, an epic tale by the priest Azgorrag detailing his journey to the afterlife to reclaim the soul of his family after a curse of madness cast on him by Tzeentch drove him to slay them. The validity of the tale is much debated, and the place where Azgorrag says he found the Gates of Death which allow the living to enter the realm of death is highly contested amongst Dawi Zharr scholars.
Just a young beardling coming of age, Sin-shar-Ashkad was now allowed for the first time to accompany his father and the other patriarchs of his clan to their family mausoleum in Zharr-Naggrund. His clan was preparing again to march to war against the lesser races of the west, and per tradition for the past 400 years, the leaders of his clan would visit the great ziggurat mausoleum of their clan, in order to reclaim a mighty token of war. It was the family heirloom of the mighty Ashkad family, and tradition was that this heirloom was the reason that their clan had never lost a war.
The numerous petrified stone statues of long dead Sorcerer priests from other clans lining the streets in Zharr-Naggrund had made an impression on the young Sin-shar-Ashkad... and while ascending the 666 steps to the top of their family mausoleum, he asked his father about them. His father, an undefeated veteran of numerous wars against the weaker races, laughed in contempt.
“They would have you believe in an afterlife,” he said. “I will tell you this: there is no afterlife. No heaven, no God, no paradise after death.”
Sin-shar-Ashkad was puzzled. ”But there are Gods! Hashut, Khorne, numerous others!”
With a grin that reflected pragmatic wisdom, his father replied: “They are not true Gods in any sense of the word... They are beings of immense power when compared to us. Nothing more. If you were marooned on a small island, and the only other inhabitants on the island were ants, you would be the God of that world. One stomp of your foot would devastate their anthills, killing thousands of them in a single whim. A swipe of your hand would topple their great forests, but just mere weeds to you. They would fear you and offer you any sort of appeasement that they could muster, to gain your favor. And they would only want to buy your favor, so as to promote and strengthen their own wants and needs. With their needs fulfilled, does that make you a God? Or does that make you easily bought with mere words and their pittance of offerings? Are you so weak that you need smaller beings offering prayer and appeasement to you? That does not make you or anyone a God.”
Sin-shar-Ashkad could not find fault with his father’s logic, and asked: “So there truly is no afterlife?”
“Perhaps you should reflect more on what happens to you after your life, as opposed to the idea of an afterlife itself,” his father replied.
Sin-shar-Ashkad thought about this as they reached the top of the 666 steps, and watched his father unlock the massive stone-cut doors to the mausoleum with an ancestral key made of obsidian and copper.
Looking to his father, Sin-shar-Ashkad asked: “If I am dead, and there is no afterlife, then what choice could possibly happen after my life?”
His father looked at him, and replied: “Wealth is fleeting. It cannot be taken with you once you die. Let the weaker Dawi Zharr clans covet wealth. Let them line the streets with stone statues of their dead kin, only to be shat upon by the black ash pigeons that perch atop them. Ask yourself... how do you want to be after your life?”
Sin-shar-Ashkad thought for a moment, and then answered: “The weaknesses of our enemies are an affront to my family, I live now only to see them killed. So my wish after my death would be to continue to see them killed by my kin and descendants.”
His father smiled approvingly.
His father then unlocked the mighty obsidian casket of their family founder, the great warrior Zharr-Ashkad himself. Reaching into the casket, Sin-shar-Ashkad’s father lifted out the family heirloom... the skull of Zharr-Ashkad himself.
The skull gleamed with inlaid runes of copper, the eye sockets stared contemptuously with pupils of polished obsidian. Mounting the skull atop the family battle standard, Sin-shar-Ashkad’s father and the other clan patriarchs all read aloud the runes embossed upon the skull, the final words of their founding father: “To see my enemies slain before me, in my life, and after my life.”
And Sin-shar-Ashkad knew then the true meaning of “afterlife.”
There was life after death, it was the memory of your life and deeds, carried forth with honour by your family.
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This post was last modified: 07-14-2016 02:24 AM by Admiral.